Upton Sinclair: The Profits of Religion

Book Three - The Church of the Servant-Girls

God's Armor

You remember "Bishop Blougram's Apology," Browning's study of the psychology of a modern Catholic ecclesiastic. He is not unaware of modern thought, this bishop; he is a man of culture, who wants to have beauty about him, to be a "cabin passenger":

There's power in me and will to dominate
Which I must exercise, they hurt me else;
In many ways I need mankind's respect,
Obedience, and the love that's born of fear.

He wishes that he had faith - faith in anything; he understands that faith is all-important -

Enthusiasm's the best thing, I repeat.
But you cannot get faith just by wishing for it -
But paint a fire, it will not therefore burn!

He tries to imagine himself going on a crusade for truth, but he asks what there would be in it for him -

State the facts,
Read the text right, emancipate the world -
The emancipated world enjoys itself
With scarce a thank-you. Blougram told it first
It could not owe a farthing, - not to him
More than St. Paul!

So the bishop goes on with his role, but uneasily conscious of the contempt of intellectual people.

I pine among my million imbeciles
(You think) aware some dozen men of sense
Eye me and know me, whether I believe
In the, last winking virgin as I vow,
And am a fool, or disbelieve in her,
And am a knave.

But, as he says, you have to keep a tight hold upon the chain of faith, that is what

Gives all the advantage, makes the difference,
With the rough, purblind mass we seek to rule.
We are their lords, or they are free of us,
Just as we tighten or relax that hold.

So he continues, but not with entire satisfaction, in his role of shepherd to those whom he calls "King Bomba's lazzaroni," and "ragamuffin saints."

I wonder into a Catholic bookstore and look to see what Bishop Blougram is doing with his lazzaronu and his ragamuffin saints here in this new country of the far West. It is easy to acquire the information, for the saleswoman is polite and the prices fit my purse. America is going to war, and Catholic boys are being drafted to be trained for battle; so for ten cents I obtain a firmly bound little pamphlet called "God's Armor, a Prayer Book for Soldiers." It is marked "Copyright by the G.R.C. Central-Verein," and bears the "Nihil Obstat" of the "Censor Theolog," and the "Imprimatur" of "Johannes Josephus, Archiepiscopus Sti. Ludovici" - which last you may at first fail to recognize as a well known city on the Mississippi River. Do you not feel the spell of ancient things, the magic of the past creeping over you, as you read those Latin trade-marks? Such is the Dead Hand, and its cunning, which can make even St. Louis sound mysterious!

In this booklet I get no information as to the commercial causes of war, nor about the part which the clerical vote may have played throughout Europe in supporting military systems, I do not even find anything about the sacred cause of democracy, the resolve of a self-governing people to put an end to feudal rule. Instead I discover a soldier-boy who obeys and keeps silent, and who, in his inmost heart, is in the grip of terrors both of body and soul. Poor, pitiful soldier-boy, marking yourself with crosses, performing genuflexions, mumbling magic formulas in the trenches - how many billion of you have been led out to slaughter by the greeds and ambitions of your religious masters, since first this accursed Antichrist got its grip upon the hearts of men!

I quote from this little book:

Start this day by lifting up your heart to God. Offer yourself to Him, and beg grace to spend the day without sin. Make the sign of the cross. Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, behold me in Thy Divine Presence. I adore Thee and give Thee thanks. Grant that all I do this day be for Thy Glory, and for the salvation of my immortal soul.

During the day lift your heart frequently to God. Your prayers need not be long nor read from a book. Learn a few of these short ejaculations by heart and frequently repeat them. They will serve to recall God to your heart and will strengthen you and comfort-you.

You remember a while back about the prayer-wheels of the Tibetans. The Catholic religion was founded before the Tibetan, and is less progressive; it does not welcome mechanical devices for saving labor. You have to use your own vocal apparatus to keep yourself from hell; but the process has been made as economical as possible by kindly dispensations of the Pope. Thus, each time that you say "My God and my all," you get fifty days indulgence; the same for "My Jesus, mercy," and the same for "Jesus, my God, I love Thee above all things." For "Jesus, Mary, Joseph," you get 300 days - which would seem by all odds the best investment of your spare breath.

And then come prayers for all occasions: "Prayer before Battle"; "Prayer for a Happy Death"; "Prayer in Temptation"; "Prayer before and after Meals"; "Prayer when on Guard"; "Prayer before a long March"; "Prayer of Resignation to Death"; "Prayer for Those in their Agony" - I cannot bear to read them, hardly to list them. I remember standing in a cathedral "somewhere in France" during the celebration of some special Big Magic. There was brilliant white light, and a suffocating strange odor, and the thunder of a huge organ, and a clamor of voices, high, clear voices of young boys mounting to heaven, like the hands of men in a pit reaching up, trying to climb over the top of one another. It sent a shudder into the depths of my soul. There is nothing left in the modern world which can carry the mind so far back into the ancient nightmare of an anguish and terror which was once the mental life of mankind, as these Roman Catholic incantations with their frantic and ceaseless importunity. They have even brought in the sex-spell; and the poor, frightened soldier-boy, who has perhaps spent the night with a prostitute, now prostrates himself before a holy Woman-being who is lifted high above the shames of the flesh, and who stirs the thrills of awe and affection which his mother brought to him in early childhood. Read over the phrases of this "Litany of the Blessed Virgin":

Holy Mary, Pray for us. Holy Mother of God. Holy Virgin of Virgins. Mother of Christ. Mother of divine grace. Mother most pure. Mother most chaste. Mother inviolate. Mother undefiled. Mother most amiable. Mother most admirable. Mother of good counsel. Mother of our Creator. Mother of our Savior. Virgin most prudent. Virgin most venerable. Virgin most renowned. Virgin most powerful. Virgin most merciful. Virgin most faithful. Mirror of justice. Seat of wisdom. Cause of our joy. Spiritual vessel. Vessel of honor. Singular vessel of devotion. Mystical rose. Tower of David. Tower of ivory. House of gold. Ark of the covenant. Gate of heaven. Morning Star. Health of the sick. Refuge of sinners. Comforter of the afflicted. Help of Christians. Queen of Angels. Queen of Patriarchs. Queen of Prophets. Queen of Apostles. Queen of Martyrs. Queen of Confessors. Queen of Virgins. Queen of all Saints. Queen conceived without original sin. Queen of the most holy Rosary. Queen of Peace, Pray for us.

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